Mission activity has increased dramatically over the past decades. Reports coming from the field – particularly from those nations in harvest, range from encouraging to excellent. Millions across the globe are coming to Christ each year. Thousands of new churches are being planted. Let the celebrations begin… or not?
As the founder and President of Harvesters Ministries I have been intimately involved in evangelism and Church planting globally. Using the Harvesters Hub Church Planting Model we have planted over 40,000 churches since 2000, training a pastor for each new church. Annually HM conducts responsible short term mission projects aimed at training locals to share their faith. We have seen hundreds of thousands turn to Christ – even in ‘difficult’ areas where believers are persecuted for their faith. Recently the world has seen an increase of Muslims coming to Christ – more in the past two years than in the preceding six centuries.
Reason for celebration? Possibly. Should we become delirious when we hear of large campaigns with huge numbers of people making decisions? Yes and no! Yes, because every person turning to Christ is cause for joy, yet no; because only half the job has been done.
So what’s the problem? It all stems from reading and understanding of Matt 28:18 -20. What we call the ‘Great Commission’ has been used over and over to motivate Christians to become involved in sharing their faith and to enter the mission field. For a long time the accent has been on “go”; probably because of the constant difficulty in getting people to participate in world evangelism. The problem is that ‘go’ is not the verb in the verse. The verb is “make disciples”! The great commission – God’s marching orders to the church, was to go with a purpose. The purpose of the going is to make disciples of all the nations. Often we have measured the success of our Missions motivation in getting people to ‘go’ out the door. The real measure, however, is not even the number of conversions we see, but whether or not people are becoming disciples of Jesus. The command was never to ‘go make converts’, but ‘go make disciples!’
Disciple making takes longer than the two weeks it takes to go on a short term mission or the few weeks that the evangelist is in town. Disciple-making calls for commitment to the people we reach for Christ. Current evangelistic methodology may be ‘better than nothing’, but falls short of the will of God. It’s half the job. It’s easy, quick and we can report great numbers.
None of what is being done is bad, it’s just incomplete.
Many Spiritual babies are left to fend for themselves every year. We then pray that God will do the work that He gave us to do.
The result is millions of converts without the Word of God. Millions in Spiritual poverty – saved – but vulnerable to every bad teaching, cult and false religion.
When HM wanted to get involved in discipling those we won to Christ in the churches we planted, we discovered Mission’s dark secret. For several decades we (the Church) have been leading people to Christ without giving those we win Bibles. Our research showed that as many as 500 million people worldwide claiming to know and love Jesus do not own a copy of His Word.
In Africa alone over 200 million Christians, believers, do not own a Bible. Whole churches – including leaders – without the Word of God. Millions of impoverished fellow believers – completely unaware of God’s nature, character and will because they have no access to the Scriptures, fellow believers, who will spend eternity with us, with no objective source of Truth. In other words, a whole (Christian) world still living in pre-Reformation conditions. A world created in our enthusiasm to ‘go’ without accepting responsibility to ‘make disciples’.
This lack of Bibles goes beyond translation issues. Wonderful organizations have translated most of the major languages and continue to do their best to provide the Bible in every dialect. Blame also does not lay at the door the Bible Societies who print and make available the Word of God. The real issue is one of money.
Bibles, like all printed materials, are expensive. Perhaps not to someone earning even minimum wage – where a Bible would cost about 2% of one month’s salary; but to most in Africa and many in the world a Bible could cost between one month’s and one year’s income. It might be available but completely unattainable for most believers.
The church, missionaries, evangelists, mission organizations, mission boards and every person in a pew carries some of the responsibility for this problem. We have tried to do missions cheaply. Providing Bibles would double if not treble our mission budgets. So, for decades we have looked the other way and hoped that ‘someone’ would address the problem. Many have accepted blindly that someone else is doing something and most of us have been completely unaware of the problem or at least the scope of the problem. I believe many involved in mission strategy and even those confronted by a lack of Bibles in the field have not realized the scope of the problem and how widespread it is beyond their own need.
It was out of this situation that Bibles for Believers was born as a ministry of Harvesters Ministries in 2006. Bibles for Believers has as its core focus the placing of God’s Word into the hands of God’s children. This is done in a planned, systematic and accountable way. Bibles are given to Churches we plant that have surveyed their people, identifying who can read and are in the discipleship program.
Almost as important is the need to make known this need among all believers and churches – putting this need onto the prayer ag
enda of every church and into the hearts and minds of Christians everywhere.
Since August 2006 Harvesters Ministries/Bibles for Believers has delivered tens of thousands of Bibles right to where the people live.
The secret is out. Millions of believers do not have a Bible and will remain mere converts unless we help them become disciples of Jesus – followers who know, understand and obey God’s Word.
At the time of the Reformation, godly men were willing to lay down their lives so that others could have access to God’s Word. Huge sacrifices were made so that today we have God’s Word. What are you willing to sacrifice to help others have access to the Bible – preferably in their own language? On average Bibles cost $15 or $300 per case delivered to a church.
By: Rev. Steven Loots
PRESIDENT: Harvesters Ministries